I am going to admit to something embarrassing: I don't think I fully understand what the term "Software plus Services" (S+S) means.

I have heard this term applied to Microsoft technologies that sync-up a desktop software application with an online service. And I have heard it applied to the business strategy of giving customers the choice of how they want their software delivered: via the Internet, through managed hosted services by commercial organizations, and through traditional on-premise services. Curt Kolcun, VP of Microsoft Federal, wrote on this very topic, an article that was published in FCW (Federal Computer Week).

Despite Curt's great write-up, I am still confused.

Because the label S+S is also being used in reference to the Virtual Earth platform. It has been suggested to me that what makes Virtual Earth S+S is the 3D control. This is the 5 MB "plug-in" piece of software that is downloaded and installed on a desktop machine IF the user wants to take advantage of the Virtual Earth 3D environment. I guess this does fit the desktop/online sync-up I mention above. I guess.

It has also been argued to me that it is the flexibility of the Virtual Earth platform as a web service OR as a stand-alone product by way of the Virtual Earth Appliance that makes it Software plus Services. Okay ... I guess this is consistent with S+S as a business strategy. I guess.

Still, to me the beauty of Virtual Earth is the web service delivery model that allows public sector customers to layer business data on Virtual Earth and then rapidly disseminate that data to a broad audience ... anyone that has access to an Internet enabled PC with a web browser. So, citizens in the public library or in a hotel business center can view a government web site to get information within the context of location because they don't need to download and install an application to view the rich satellite and aerial imagery.

And to me, that's Software-as-a-Service.

No matter. I guess what is most important is that it is also proof of Microsoft leading in innovation in this market space; because up until this week our competitor was not doing this. They are now, after recently publishing textured city models resembling our version 1.0 models first introduced 18 months ago. Course, Microsoft has over 250 complete city models to date. And I understand they have been adding aerial imagery to their platform as well. Meanwhile,we have aerial imagery in 80% of locations where people live, work and vacation.

I wonder if they now consider their platform SaaS or S+S.

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